Flashback to 15 years ago. Cara Bognar was a young swimmer in South Carolina and the oldest of five kids. Unlike her friends, her dream wasn't to become an astronaut or meet the coolest singers; it was to become a college swimmer! She was star-struck by the older athletes who returned to her swim club in the summer and fantasized about the day that she would become just like them.
Today, Cara has achieved her childhood dream! She is a college swimmer and team captain at the University of Illinois. With her firsthand experience as a young athlete, she truly understands the impact that a mentor can have on a child’s life. This inspired her to start Top Tier Lessons, a platform to help kids get this same mentorship from local college athletes. These athletes have become role models for the kids, and continue to inspire them through sports. On the other side, Cara recognizes the challenges of balancing a demanding schedule as an athlete and a college student. Top Tier Lessons has been able to create flexible and fulfilling job options for busy college athletes.
The Top Tier Lessons team has now grown to include 6 incredible individuals, each from diverse locations across the globe. We were first formed at the University of Illinois, united by our shared passion for sports.
PJ oversees our marketing efforts and is a self-proclaimed music extraordinaire. Journey is a track and field athlete at Saint Louis University helping Top Tier expand to new sports and locations. Taylor specializes in platform maintenance and is on the diving team at the University of Illinois. Brooke handles customer service and is another excellent diver from Reno, Nevada. Last but not least, Rahul makes the magic happen with the creation of the entire website. As you can see below, this team has a lot of fun helping build a community of college athletes supporting and inspiring local kids!
As a team, we are committed to furthering the growth of youth sports in a safe and inclusive environment. Top Tier’s goal is to support young athletes throughout their entire journey, starting from their first swim lesson, trying new sports, joining travel teams, making varsity teams, and potentially even playing in college. Our coaches are not only teachers, but also role models and mentors who will be there every step of the way.
Top Tier Lessons officially launched in Champaign this April with University of Illinois athletes. After starting with only a few ideas and a spreadsheet, we have now hosted multiple clinics and facilitated over 200 lessons on our platform. Through our clinics in Champaign, Paxton, and Chicago, we have raised thousands of dollars to support local sports teams and left an impact on hundreds of aspiring college athletes.
Outside of the community, we are creating opportunities for our coaches as well. Logan Kuehne, a swim coach on our platform shared her experience, saying, “Coaching with Top Tier Lessons has had a tremendous impact on me because I’ve watched the kids I work with become more comfortable and confident in the water. It gives me so much joy to watch a kid I’ve worked with consistently begin to swim stronger on their own and apply what we’ve worked on. I am thankful the platform has helped me learn ways to coach better and has given kids the opportunity to learn one-on-one with a division one athlete at the University of Illinois.”
To all of our supporters, we want to thank you for joining us on this journey. It has been quite a ride, and we’re just getting started.
If what we’re doing resonates with you, here’s how you can help us along the way:
- Follow us on social media! @toptierlessons on FB, IG, and TikTok
- Join our weekly newsletter (below)
- Share about us in your local parent community (this is a HUGE help)
- Book a lesson! (who knows, you might love it)
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